Hierarchy of needs

Seeking high spirits

Hi there,

I hope those of you in Texas are staying warm and taking care this week.

It’s been frustrating to see how widespread power loss is tragically affecting Texans and to witness how the bureaucracy and cowardice of our leadership come at the expense of those most vulnerable in our cities. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a good leader and also struggled with paranoia when it comes to water and gas and heat and flames and how they can compromise our safety if we’re not careful.

Despite this, I feel immense privilege to be surrounded by a culture of giving and a mindset of abundance. I’m seeing those around me lead by example and willing to sacrifice their time, money, and energy, and comfort to make sure their neighbors are okay. My immediate neighbors are all connected through WhatsApp and have been sharing firewood, soup, heat, and internet, which has been awesome to see.

Shakespeare has no concept of our statewide power grid. He doesn’t understand FaceTime or TV or the meaning of a screen with boxes of people or why I sit in front of one and sometimes talk to it throughout the day.

While he’s had a few shivers this week, this Texas dog has also been galloping in the snow, chasing a football, eating snow cones, and putting his limbs on his favorite humans and keeping our spirits light.

I feel fortunate that our family has had moments of enjoying the wonders of a 10-year snow and resiliency with a mindset of adventure in yards, on bikes, while sweeping sidewalks and cars, and connecting with friends.

My reminder this week is to assess my needs and build my work on top of something intentional.

In a past conversation with a friend around Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we bounced around how it can be incredibly difficult to focus or desire higher-level needs (a feeling of accomplishment in our work, spiritual needs, or feeling creatively fulfilled) until we’re first warm, fed, have slept, feel safe, feel like we belong, or have supportive structures around us first. Recognizing our immediate, physical needs and having them met enables us to better understand and seek higher-level needs. Being grateful for receiving our immediate needs also helps us enrich motivation toward higher-level goals.

In my work, I’m often quick to jump around in my process and seek the finishing, stylistic touches and the “extra something” to make something super great, but I have to remind myself that it needs to be founded on something substantial. For me, it’s a strong mission, a goal, a higher purpose that fuels my work. When I don’t have this, I notice that what I’m working on becomes incredibly boring, the message behind my work becomes so warped that the project starts trending into a muddy, superficial place where my work is void of any real impact; or I’m not really saying anything—I’m just talking to hear myself talk.

It’s really hard to see what makes good work that stands out, and to keep this trajectory of making work that’s challenging enough but fulfilling. It’s also hard to make work that reflects your values, and I have to keep coming back to this. I consider this the pinnacle and challenge of seeking to live a creative life: the junction of continually making sustainable work, seeking the interesting and challenging, remembering to play, recognizing seasons in what you’re interested in, growing in your craft, and holding the short- and long-term in tension.

Here’s to being aware of what you need to pursue what’s next and using that to take you in the direction you want to go.